The injury bug finally caught up with Andy McCollum's offensive juggernaut last week against North Texas State when super junior RB Dwone Hicks went down with a strained hamstring. Hicks had gained 28 yards on only four carries when the first quarter injury occurred. From that point forward, the Blue Raiders turned back into a Tennessee pumpkin, generating only 21 points in their three-point loss to the Mean Green. For Middle, the timing was not good, as the Blue Raiders had already lost a starting guard and a starting cornerback a week earlier. Hicks may play, but look for him to be extremely limited if he does. Sophomore Rashard Lee will likely fill in fairly well, but he will have to go it alone as sophomore speedster Don Calloway has also been lost to a season-ending injury.
Now QB Wes Counts will have to rely more heavily on his passing attack, featuring WRs Tyrone Calico and Kendall Newson. And while the Raiders' spread offense should still move the ball this week against the Ole Miss Rebels, the once-strong possibility of a major upset has much abated.
Without Hicks, the Raider offense is merely good, and Ole Miss can defend the pass very well indeed. Home-standing hero Eli Manning should have a party against the banged-up Raider secondary, which wasn't very good to begin with. OLE MISS 48, MTSU 34.
Big Blue Coach Guy Morriss keeps trying to get his Wildcats off the mat, but just when things seem to be improving, as they did three weeks ago against Ole Miss, the 'Cats get knocked back to the ground. (South Carolina pummeled UK two weeks ago).
Last week, Kentucky took LSU to the wire, taking the lead in the fourth quarter, only to have pre-historic Bengal quarterback Rohan Davey decide to snap out of it with three minutes left in the game. For Davey it was a reversion to the kind of cutting-edge frenzy that led to upset wins last year against Tennessee and Georgia Tech. Nothing like pressure for this big guy. Stick a pin in him, and you've got hell to pay.
This week, Kentucky makes the transition to Sanford Stadium in Athens, Ga., to take on Mark Richt's red-hot Red Clay Hounds right there between the hedges. Now that Auburn has knocked off East Beast Florida, Dawg fans are alive again with hopes and dreams of an SEC Eastern Division title. Georgia did themselves a big favor, too, by road tripping the state of Tennessee the past two weeks, popping the Big Orange Pumpkin in K-town and punishing genetically mal-engineered Vandy last Saturday in Nashville.
Look for Georgia's offense, led by improving redshirt freshman David Greene, to get things done, though maybe not with usual facility. GEORGIA 34, KENTUCKY 23.
Lou Holtz called it a nightmare. Arkansas called it a dream come true. I don't know exactly what to call it, but it was not an upset. Arkansas's 10-7 win over South Carolina was a classic old-style football game, where the home-team defense dictates the action, and, ultimately wins the game. Hmmm, sounds like another SEC game last week.
At any rate, Lou and his ruffled Cocks now come home Saturday afternoon to match wits with Woody and the Commodores in Columbia. The sailing hasn't been so smooth for 1-4 Vanderbilt lately either, as the Commodores appear to be chest-deep in their annual mid -season disappearing act after playing well against Alabama and Auburn earlier in the year.
This is not the time or the place to believe in a VU revival. It is, after all, the Dores' first road game of the season. Look for the Cocks' dee to kick 'em in the butt. SOUTH CAROLINA 30, VANDY 10.
Speaking of nightmares, that mud-lolly they called homecoming in Starkville last week took first place in the humiliation-of-the-week category. Jackie Sherrill's Bulldogs pulled a no-show amidst the tornadoes and flash floods, while Larry Blakeney's cuzins of Troy took advantage of the Scott Field discomfort to notch a heart-beat-stopping 21-9 victory. How gross.
This Saturday night, don't look for anything better, either, as LSU Voodoo Chile QB Rohan Davey will show no sympathy whatsoever for the SEC's sickest football team. LSU 32, MISSISSIPPI STATE 14.
The Big Orange rolls into the Boneyard in Tuscaloosa this Saturday with one arm tied behind its back. All SEC defensive end Will Overstreet is out and will not be able to heed the mating call of glutton-for-punishment Alabama option QB Tyler Watts. It's a real shame, too, for all those High Life Volunteer fans who, after a big night on the town in Knoxville, will often pull over in the middle of the night just to gander at the variety of mountain road kill on the way back to Pigeon Forge. Oh, well, maybe next year.
But even without big Will, there is still big John manning the Tennessee trenches. Henderson, the reigning Outland Trophy winner, has suffered from a high ankle sprain (a new injury invented just for the 2001 football season along with the new "you don't have to actually catch it" end zone TD rule on page 7 of the college football official's handbook) and may be less than full speed for the game.
Even more debilitating for the Vols may be the injuries to its usually reliable receiving corps. UT has been without the services of big-pay specialist Donte Stallworth since the Syracuse game and will try to attack a weak Bama secondary with star-motha freshman sensation Kelley Washington, who is gimpy with a sprained foot. Stallworth will try to go, but may be of little use. The return of Eric Parker from a two-week shoulder injury should help the Volunteer cause.
Look also for the Vols to unleash true freshmen tailbacks Cedric Houston and Derrick Tinsley on Alabama, along with freshman fullback Jabari Davis. As if conference rushing leader Travis Stephens weren't enough. Coach Phil Fulmer has never been one to forget about the importance of this game.
By now, Dennis Franchione has heard some whispers himself about the importance of beating UT, something the Tide hasn't done since 1992. And after last week's fade against Ole Miss, you can bet the blood alcohol level has finally reached 00 at the Capstone. If ever Alabama played football--or will again--this Saturday will be the day they do it. ALABAMA 27, TENNESSEE 20.
After winning one for the ages against the top-ranked Florida Gators and surviving a home-field terrorist attack from the AUPD, Auburn players and fans will once again gather on the Plains this Saturday at the scene of the crimes.
With homecoming at hand and Florida a fresh and pleasing image, you might expect the Tigers' heads to be behind the times when the high-flying La Tech Bulldogs come calling. But sometimes success can create its own distractions. Look for the Tiger running game to get into overdrive. AUBURN 41, LA TECH 24.